Board of Adjustment approves Vienna wind farm repowering

Pictured is the Vienna Wind Farm along the landscapes south and west of Gladbrook in Tama and Marshall counties. TAMA-GRUNDY FILE PHOTO

TOLEDO — The Tama County Board of Adjustment met May 3 to discuss the repowering of the Vienna wind farm located near Gladbrook. Only three of the five members were present for the meeting.

The Vienna wind farm has been operating for nearly 10 years with 20 turbines sitting on the Tama County side of the line, and another 44 located on the Marshall County side.

Sara Houlihan, senior project developer with MidAmerican Energy, spoke first about the three variances wanted for the project, stating that over 1,200 turbines in Iowa have been repowered so far.

The first requested variance was for three turbines to make the distance from the road less than 1.1 times the height of the tower and rotator to the public right of way.

The second requested variance was for a single turbine to make the distance to an above-ground power line less than 1.1 times the height of the tower and rotator.

The third requested variance is for all 20 turbines to change a minimum of ground clearance from the blades from 75 to 50 feet.

Overall this would mean larger blades and replacing the top tower section of the existing turbines. This will not affect the county payments.

Multiple citizens took the opportunity to voice their opinions during the public comment section of the meeting. One person asked how the taller, longer bladed turbines would work in derecho level winds, while another raised questions about the construction in general.

After taking a few minutes to discuss the variances among each other in an empty room in the Tama County Administration building, the three board members came back to pass all the variances, 2-1. The lone holdout was Nikki Novak sitting in the middle, who had more questions about the Vienna repowering than either of her other board members.

A tentative date as to when construction is thought to start is next fall after the harvest or next spring.

Editor’s note: Since this story went to press, there has been a question as to the validity of the 2-1 vote approving the three variances as only three of the five members of the board were present. Tama-Grundy Publishing will continue to follow this story.